At Torquay Marina, I once witnessed the proud new owner of a 40ft Fairline turn up, overnight bags and family in tow, eager to take his new toy out on her maiden voyage.
Almost all available marina staff were assigned to a line, whilst the new skipper prepared for departure. With everything and everyone safely on board, the engines were duly fired up. The excitement was tangible as they prepared to slip. Then, for reasons that soon became apparent, the owner began testing the bow thrusters with amateurish enthusiasm, totally oblivious to the effect it was having on the poor chap holding the bow line.
Content with the performance of the bow thrusters, he brought in the lines and throttled forward into the fairway, straight towards the sterns of boats moored ahead. His intention, indeed his only option, was to turn to port 90 degrees, into the fairway. However, his predicament was threefold; he was going too fast, running tight alongside the pontoon on his starboard and he was harbouring a total misconception of the principal of bow thrusters.
It is worth noting that at no stage, since the initial application of power, were the throttles or steering touched. Instead, the unsuspecting owner stood by the helm with one hand on the thruster control. With the stern of the boat ahead looming, he gave the bow thruster full wellie to port. To his horror and unsurprisingly, nothing happened. Well, when I say nothing, I mean nothing happened to the current speed and course. The skipper went into immediate meltdown and made his next big blunder. Still ignoring the throttles, he swung the steering full to port. Two things happened in a very short space in time. The starboard corner of his gleaming teak covered bathing platform was forced to confront the edge of the pontoon and then the stanchion itself. The platform lost; perhaps, more accurately, he lost the starboard corner of his platform. By now he had somehow managed to point the boat in the direction he so desperately needed. Then came the painful demonstration of linear momentum in practise. Although he was pointing the right way, he continued to travel broadside on the original course, straight into the back of 3 moored cruisers. Metal bent, fibreglass crunched, wood snapped and a tender popped like a balloon.
What experience has he got, I asked the harbour master, as soon as I could speak. None, he replied, it’s his first boat. Somehow, you can always spot a novice!!!